Mountain View Voice

News - August 13, 2010

NASA request a 'promising' move for Hangar One

by Daniel DeBolt

NASA Ames Research Center is taking a potential first step towards restoring Hangar One at Moffett Field by asking construction contractors to consider the cost of restoring the iconic landmark.

NASA wants to hear from contractors and other interested parties on how they would go about replacing the hangar's toxic siding — with cost estimates, said Ames director of center operations, Deb Feng. Past estimates have ranged from $15 million to $40 million, but Feng said she was sure it wasn't $15 million.

According to the "Request for Information" (RFI), released Monday, NASA wants to put new corrugated steel siding on Hangar One once the Navy removes the existing laminate siding, which contains PCBs and asbestos, next year.

The RFI says that "NASA's desire is to rehabilitate the hangar with new metal siding, restore the historic windows, install a new roof on the upper crown of the hangar and return the hangar to a state of usefulness."

While the RFI looks like a "promising" step forward, some of the hangar's most ardent preservationists were disappointed to see that NASA wants to use metal siding, said Lenny Siegel, board member of the Air and Space West Foundation. Siegel and his fellow board members have been working to preserve the hangar for years and are now working with the Smithsonian Institute to put an air and space museum inside.

A proposal for a teflon-fiberglass fabric siding was made in 2007 by architect Linda Ellis, wife of the Air and Space West Foundation's CEO Larry Ellis. Similar to what is used on the Shoreline Amphitheatre, it would be semi-translucent for natural lighting and have some cost savings over time, Ellis had said.

While the RFI is not asking for bids on the actual residing work, a request for proposals could be the next step. Chief among the reasons for the RFI, Feng said, was to identify the costs of re-skinning Hangar One so that NASA management could figure out how to move forward.

The request said that "to date, funding has not been identified for this rehabilitation effort," but Feng said NASA was looking at various sources, including the possibility of funding it internally along with a $10 million appropriation Congresswoman Anna Eshoo is seeking.

"Anna has been very supportive of it, so we feel that there is some way to get the funding," Feng said.

Very soon $1.2 million will be needed if NASA wants to preserve the hangar's unique corrugated windows, which would need to be carefully removed and the asbestos sealing putty cleaned off.

Feng said an RFI was not unusual for NASA projects, but said it was "more unusual" for its construction projects. Siegel said he'd wished that the Navy had sent out an request before moving on its now controversial plan to remove the siding and destroy some of the hangar's historic interior structures, which has left preservationist scrambling to save historic artifacts.

NASA went as far as to vet the RFI with the State Historic Preservation Office, Feng said.

"We have not skinned a hangar like this ever," Feng said. "We thought (the RFI) was the smart thing to do because of the uniqueness of Hangar One. We want the best of minds and eyes on it."

The RFI is available at tinyurl.com/hangarone-rfi and the deadline for responses is Sept. 23.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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